The Daily Telegraph, Five killed every week in epidemic of knife crime

Thursday, 17 July, 2008

FIVE people are stabbed to death every week as knife crime has risen by a fifth since Labour came to power, figures show today.

The statistics seen by The Daily Telegraph come on the day ministers publish for the first time data showing the scale of the knife crime "epidemic'', which has now spread from cities to the shires.

The Government's annual crime statistics show 22,151 crimes involving knives and sharp instruments were committed in the past year, with hundreds of stabbings in police force areas such as Devon and Cornwall, Hampshire, Kent and Cheshire. London and Greater Manchester top the list.

Statistics released in parliamentary answers show that people are five times more likely to be killed by a knife than be shot with a gun or hit with a blunt instrument.

Overall, fatal stabbings accounted for a third of all murders in 2006/7 - 258 stabbings out of 734 murders - an increase of more than 20 per cent since 1996/7.

David Ruffley, the Tory MP who obtained the figures, said: "This makes a mockery of repeated Government promises that violent crime is lower than 10 years ago.''

Gordon Brown admitted this week that many people do not feel safe in their homes because of violent crime as the Government's about-turn on new measures to combat knife crime came under fire. Today's annual crime statistics will show 60 people a day were stabbed or mugged at knife-point, in the year to March 2008.

This does not included an estimated 250 fatal stabbings, which are recorded separately by the Home Office.

Ian Johnston, the president of the Police Superintendents' Association, said: "The public need to understand this is not just a London problem or an inner-city problem. It is a serious problem all over the country.

"There is now a need for radical, short-term solutions. Serious consideration should be given to the idea of introducing a minimum prison sentence for carrying a knife. I believe this would have a dramatic impact.

"We must get back to the time when members of the public accept that even if they have done nothing wrong, and are not carrying a knife, they must not object to a police officer questioning them and in some cases searching them.''

Last week knife attacks killed six people in 24 hours, resulting in Scotland Yard releasing an unprecendented statement of reassurance to the public.

Detectives, politicians and parents are concerned that knife crime, once thought to be an inner city problem, is spreading to the provinces.

Hampshire recorded 388 knife crimes, Devon and Cornwall 288, Avon and Somerset 360, Kent 327, Staffordshire 219, Cheshire 224 and Northumbria 351.